Pool & Spa Outdoor Blog

Top 5 Pool Products for 2013

Must-Have Pool Products for Fun, Fitness, and Faster Maintenance






Today’s high-tech pool equipment and accessories can boost your pool’s fun factor, improve your fitness level, and make pool care a breeze. Enjoy a great swim season this summer with the help of these top 5 pool products.

1. Swim Current Generators


Stream by Swim Ex Portable Swim Current GeneratorA swim current generator can maximize your pool’s fitness factor. This portable, self-contained unit sits at the edge of your pool and produces a smooth adjustable current that you can swim in place against for a low-impact, high calorie-burning workout.

With a swim current generator you can enjoy continuous swimming without the interruption of flip turns or risk of injury. They can be used in aboveground and inground pools of any shape, size, and depth and are especially great for small or oddly shaped pools that are not conducive for swimming laps.

Variable speed settings offer a range of current paces to suit swimmers of any age or fitness ability. You can also swim laps, jog, or walk in place while the rest of your family relaxes and enjoys the pool.

The new Stream by SwimEx is a convenient swim current generator that operates via a rechargeable battery and requires no installation or setup.

Check out swim generator photos and videos of Stream by SwimEx >>


Photo courtesy of SwimEx


2. Automatic Pool Covers


Cover-Pools Automatic Cover on Freeform PoolAn automatic pool cover retracts open and slides closed over your pool via a motor-driven track system that is permanently mounted along the length of your pool. Most automatic pool covers operate at the push of a button or turn of a key and can be installed on any type or shape pool, old or new, and indoors or out. Additionally, the track system can be mounted on top of your pool’s existing deck, under the coping, or seamlessly built into your pool’s design during construction for an aesthetically pleasing look.

Using a pool cover can significantly reduce your pool’s energy consumption and operating cost by minimizing the evaporation of heat, water, and chemicals. A pool cover also helps prevent dirt and debris from entering the water so your pool stays cleaner longer and requires less frequent skimming and vacuuming. This also reduces the workload on your pool’s circulation system and equipment.

In order to reap all the energy, money, and time savings, however, you need to keep your pool covered between uses. Automatic pool covers make it quick and easy to cover your pool when it’s not in use.

View more automatic pool cover photos and videos from Cover-Pools, Inc. >>


Photo courtesy of Cover-Pools, Inc.


3. Control Systems


Easy Touch Automatic Pool Control System

Swimming pool control systems allow you to manage all of your pool and/or spa equipment with the push of a button. Daily pool operations such as filtration, sanitation, and cleaning cycles are programmed or activated from a wireless, easy-to-use control panel located outdoors or inside your home. Most pool control systems can manage an unlimited number of pool equipment and features, including pumps, heaters, waterfalls, pool and landscape lighting, fountains, and more.

Additionally, some manufacturers offer optional remote controls, such as a spa-side remote or handheld wireless remote so you can operate equipment from anywhere in your yard. Automated pool control systems are available in various configurations, including pool only, spa only, pools and spas with shared equipment, and custom pools and spas with separate equipment.

With everyday pool operations on autopilot, you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy your pool. In addition, having automated control over your filter pump’s run time can help you save energy and money. For instance, when manually operating your pool, you’re probably running your filter during the day (between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.) when demand for electricity is at its highest. What’s more, chances are you’ve forgotten to turn off the filter on more than one occasion.

With an automated control system, you can set your filter pump to run during off-peak hours (before 1 p.m. or after 9 p.m.) and for the minimum duration. (Note: Time requirements for filtering depend on pool size, bather load, equipment, and amount of debris. Generally, filter operation should be no less than 4 – 5 hours.)

Learn about automatic pool control systems from Pentair Aquatic Systems >>


Photo courtesy of Pentair Aquatic Systems


4. Pool Waterslides


Fiberglass Pool Waterslide by Dolphin WaterslidesThere’s no doubt your swimming pool provides countless hours of fun and excitement for you and your family, but there’s nothing quite like the thrill of zipping down a pool slide and splashing into the water. From stand-alone units with a straight or corkscrew runway to custom built-ins that zig and zag around landscaping or take riders through a cave waterfall, there are a variety of waterslide options to fit every swimming pool.

Fiberglass pool waterslides have become a common choice among homeowners due to their durability, low maintenance, and customization. Pre-designed models are available in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes and can typically accommodate any pool design or decking allocations. If you can’t find the exact waterslide you’re looking for, the majority of fiberglass waterslide manufacturers will work with you and your pool builder to create a custom slide that’s just right for your pool, family, and thrill-seeking needs.

See more photos and videos of fiberglass waterslides from Dolphin Waterslides >>


Photo courtesy of Dolphin Waterslides/Creative Rock Formations


5. Robotic Pool Cleaners


Spend more time enjoying your pool with a robotic cleanerWant to spend more time enjoying your pool and less time cleaning? Replace your manual pool vacuum with a robotic pool cleaner. A robotic pool cleaner is a type of automatic pool cleaner that is driven by an electric motor, which can be powered by batteries, solar energy, or a low voltage water-safe cord plugged into a GFCI-protected outlet. The self-contained unit roves around the pool, sucking up dirt, leaves, and finer particles and transferring them into an attached filter bag; some models feature rotating brushes or rollers that scrub surfaces.

Pentair Automatic Pool CleanerThe majority of robotic pool cleaners contain a microchip that allows you to program the cleaner’s route for effective and efficient cleaning, though most pools can be cleaned in about one to two hours. Some models come with a remote control for easy spot cleaning.

The perks of a robotic pool cleaner go beyond not having to manually clean your swimming pool: Because a robotic pool cleaner does not hook up to your pool pump or filter, it reduces the use of your pool’s circulation systems, which lowers energy costs and extends the life your pump and filter.

Check out automatic pool cleaners from Pentair Aquatic Systems >>


Photo courtesy of Pentair Aquatic Systems

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6 Tools That Make Pool Care Easy >>
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2013 Pool & Spa Outdoor Buyers' Guide >>

What Makes a Coral Stone Deck Beautiful? Coralina!

HOW Coral stone decking adds beauty to your swimming pool and backyard









Coral Stone coralina decking poolPool builders, landscape architects, and interior decorators around the country are starting to utilize a building material that their counterparts in the Caribbean and Florida already use to create a number of exquisite indoor and outdoor spaces: coralina.

Coralina, also known as coral stone, coralina fossil stone, and keystone, consists of coral and shell fossils, coral, sand, as well as limestone. This unique product is strengthened by nature to withstand a variety of weather extremes, saltwater, pool chemicals, heavy foot traffic, and the occasional mishap with a falling object—making it ideal for pool decking and coping. Virtually non-slip, coralina also absorbs only a minimum of heat and is easily maintained.

“Coralina can transform any outdoor setting into a comfortable and safe environment that swimmers will enjoy no matter how hot and slick it gets,” says Jorge Larrauri, president of Coral Stone USA.

This durable yet beautiful material provides a tropical elegance to all types of settings and is ideal for constructing everything from grand staircases, columns, and indoor flooring to magnificent fountains and pool decking.

“Coral stone, a material that takes thousands of years to develop, is finding its way into today’s contemporary designs,” says Larrauri. “More and more, professionals are discovering that this product adds a refinement to a variety of home interior and exterior styles.”

Harvested from top quarries in the tropics—especially from the high quality ones found in the Dominican Republic—coralina products have a distinctive splendor that appears during processing. One-of-a-kind fossil patterns are revealed, giving the coral stone a fabulous texture that varies from product to product. Depending on what type of surface is desired, a homeowner can choose smooth finishes with a fine grain to more open textures that showcase the encased fossils.

See more beautiful photos of coral stone pool decks >>

Coral Stone coralina stone decking poolAvailable is a wide range of stunning colors from red and gold to white coral, coralina’s richness consistently passes the test of time, rarely losing any of its brilliance and beauty. “When you enhance your pool's deck with keystone stone, you don't just get stylish pool coping along with a cool deck, you also obtain sophistication, added security, and superior quality,” states Larrauri.

In addition to being luxuriantly beautiful, coralina is also easy to install. It requires very little modification once it is cut for a project; in fact, skilled craftsmen are readily able to position the stone in a desired pattern for any number of outdoor projects besides pool decking and coping, including fences, walkways, steppingstones, planters, and other garden accents where an island ambiance is wanted.

By finishing with a quality sealant, the material can handle all types of harsh weather conditions—and survive to be enjoyed during the warm swimming season! “Normally, those homes in warm, sunny states gravitate to coralina’s alluring elegance,” explains Larrauri. “But homeowners from other types of climates are discovering the material’s durability and exquisite good looks, and it is becoming the product of choice for homes everywhere.

To see more photos and videos of coral stone decks, check out Coral Stone USA>>

 

Photos courtesy of CoralStoneUSA.com

Top 7 Outdoor Furniture Trends for 2013

New Outdoor Furniture Designs offer
Flexible Style and Indoor Comfort




As homeowners continue to spend more time and money on their outdoor spaces, outdoor furniture manufacturers have come up with new designs and innovative products to meet their growing needs and style preferences. The latest trends in outdoor furniture and accessories focus on indoor comfort, design flexibility, and making better use of your outdoor living space. Here are the top 7 outdoor furniture trends you can expect to see this spring.

1. Stackable Patio Chairs

Circa Stackable Patio Chairs and Dining SetLightweight stackable patio chairs and table sets offer versatile solutions for small yards: they can be repositioned to maximize space and accommodate guests during outdoor gatherings; then stacked and stored away when not in use.

The need for space-saving furniture comes from the reality that many homeowners are moving into smaller homes and “therefore tend to have less outdoor space,” says Gerald Shvartsman, CEO and owner of Source Outdoor, a high-end outdoor furniture manufacturer in Miami, Fla. According to a study by the National Association of Home Builders, the size of the average single-family home will have decreased by 10 percent by 2015.

In addition to smaller spaces, Shvartsman contributes the interest in stackable outdoor furniture to its easy portability. Many homeowners want to bring their furniture indoors during harsh storms or the winter months to help it last longer and protect it from the elements.

Fusion Stackable Sling Chair from Source Outdoor"A huge benefit or reason as to why stackable outdoor furniture is trending more and more is because consumers can save space in storage and have greater mobility to move their furniture when needed," says Shvartsman.

But don’t confuse stackable patio furniture with the outdated plastic white lawn chairs you probably have hiding out in the back of your garage. Today’s outdoor stackable furniture is crafted from durable, high-quality materials like weather-resistant aluminum and synthetic rattan and is designed with a modern style to look great in any setting.

The Circa Stackable Outdoor Dining Chair (pictured above) and the Fusion Stackable Chat Set (pictured at right) are two examples of the stylish new options in stackable outdoor furniture.


Photos courtesy of UpSpring PR on behalf of Source Outdoor



Outdoor rugs are a top trend this summer 2. Outdoor Rugs

Outdoor rugs are a top trend this summer as the desire to bring the look and comfort of the indoors out remains in high demand among homeowners. Just like an interior rug, an outdoor rug can pull your entire outdoor space together, as well as define seating areas and add a warm and welcoming feel to your patio, porch, or deck.

Outdoor rugs are available in all shapes, sizes, colors and patterns to match any décor theme and can even extend the look of your home’s interior. Most outdoor rugs are made from polypropylene for water, mold, and mildew prevention and are treated to resist fading from UV exposure.




Photo courtesy of Whitecraft, Inc.; William Herren, Designer



3. Deep Seating Furniture

Deep Seating Outdoor Furniture from Pride Family BrandsDeep seating outdoor furniture, which includes upholstered chairs, sofas, loveseats, chaise lounges, and ottomans, continues to grow in popularity. Like the cozy furnishings that make a living room the most relaxing place to gather inside the home, deep seating outdoor furniture features large, wide seating areas and soft, oversized cushions to create an equally enticing refuge outdoors.

Deep seating patio furniture comes in a variety of durable, weather-resistant materials, including synthetic wicker, cast aluminum, wrought iron, and wood. Design styles range from traditional to contemporary to country chic and can either extend the look of your interiors or create a new décor theme outdoors.

Modular deep seating sets are a popular choice because the sectional pieces can be moved around or grouped together to best fit the occasion or space. Source Outdoor’s Lucaya collection (pictured below) offers a range of 14 different pieces “so people can customize the look of their space, big or small,” says Shvartsman.

Lucaya Outdoor Modular Deep Seating Lucaya Modular Chaise Lounge with Blue Cushions

Above: Photos courtesy of UpSpring PR on behalf of Source Outdoor
Top Right: Photo courtesy of Pride Family Brands



Outdoor fabric options from Pride Family Brands4. Outdoor Fabrics

Outdoor furniture fabrics continue to improve in performance, design, and texture. Outdoor cushions made from acrylic, polyester, and olefin fabrics feel just as comfy and soft as their indoor counterparts and are resistant to water, stains, and fading from UV exposure so there’s no need to bring them inside after every use. Cleaning is also simple: just wipe them down with a mild soap and a little warm water.

Along with enhanced durability, outdoor fabrics are now being produced in wider ranges of colors, patterns, and prints and offer unlimited design possibilities for outdoor spaces. Everything from outdoor furniture cushions to patio umbrellas and awnings to accent pillows, outdoor curtains and rugs can be mixed and matched to add depth and personality to your space.

The latest design trends for 2013 call for out-of-the-ordinary combinations such as mixing contrasting prints such as stripes and floral and mingling bright vivid shades like poppy red and zesty yellow with neutrals like gray and tan.

The abundance and diversity in outdoor fabrics make it easier and more affordable to update the look of your outdoor space from one season to the next and as trends come and go.



Photo courtesy of Pride Family Brands



5. Multifunctional Pieces

Outdoor Bar Height Dining Fire Pit TableWith the rise of the “outdoor room,” backyards have become multipurpose spaces for dining, swimming, lounging, cooking, and entertaining. As such, outdoor furniture designers are now creating pieces that cater to a variety of needs and activities.

Dining or bar height firepit tables are one of the latest outdoor furniture offerings and provide the warmth and ambiance of a fit pit along with adequate space for dining and socializing. Many manufacturers produce a range of dining fire table sizes to accommodate any space and family, big or small.

A few companies have taken multifunctional furniture a step further with accessories like a Lazy Susan that fits over the fire pit section if extra table space is needed and a table top grill pan that allows you to cook food right at the table, creating an interactive dining experience.

Other multifunctional furniture trends include outdoor storage ottomans, benches, and chaise loungers that provide seating as well as a discreet place to stash furniture cushions, garden tools, or pool toys.

Pride Family Brands is one outdoor furniture manufacturer incorporating this trend into its product line. The company has designed a selection of woven aluminum outdoor storage units, including an oversized coffee table, end table, and an armoire/side board.

Jakarta Outdoor Deep Seating Collection from Pride Family BrandsOutdoor Storage Chest Coffee Table from Pride Family Brands

Photos courtesy of Pride Family Brands


Deep Seating Outdoor Rocking Chair6. Motion Seating

In keeping with the notion toward indoor comfort, motion seating such as swivel chairs, gliders, and rockers are making a bigger presence in outdoor furniture collections this year.

Though they’re not a new trend, outdoor rocking chairs, swivel seats, gliders, and swings are now being designed in a wider array of materials and styles, including deep-seating designs with plush cushions and contoured seats for maximum comfort and relaxation outdoors.









Photo courtesy of New River Casual Furniture;
Photography by Wayne Donelsen, Deanne & Wayne Co.



Transitional Style Outdoor Furniture with Curved Seating7. Transitional Style

Overall, the biggest trend in outdoor furniture this year is the move toward transitional design. A mix between classic and contemporary styles, transitional outdoor furniture blends the clean lines of modern furniture with the curves and comfort of traditional designs for a look that is simple, yet inviting.

The popularity of transitional style furniture stems from its design versatility: Transitional outdoor furniture can easily be mixed and matched with more modern or traditional pieces and works well in any backyard setting. Additionally, transitional style outdoor furniture affords homeowners the flexibility to revamp the look of their outdoor space from one design scheme to the next just by switching out the cushions and accessories.



Photo courtesy of Pride Family Brands



Learn which type of outdoor furniture is best for your climate and space in our Guide to Buying Outdoor Furniture >>


2013 NESPA Award-Winning Swimming Pools Photo Gallery

Beautiful Award-Winning Pool Photos from NESPA









NESPA Crystal Pool and Spa deck bridge backyardLooking to add a pool or renovate your existing swimming pool for the summer? Now is the time to plan! With so many shapes, materials, water features, lighting options, and more, you may not be sure where to start...

That’s why we’ve added a new swimming pool photo gallery featuring the winners of Northeast Spa & Pool Association’s (NESPA) annual Awards of Excellence.

 

See 100 photos of beautiful swimming pools built and designed by talented pool builders dedicated to their craft. Browse the gallery for striking images of inground pools, custom spas, hot tubs, waterfalls, water features, and more. View pool photos >>

 

Photo courtesy of NESPA; Crystal Pool & Spa, Inc., East Hanover, NJ (Gold winner)


Pool & Spa Outdoor's 2013 Buyers' Guide

Explore Company Profiles in Pool & Spa Outdoor's New 2013 Buyers' Guide










Coral Stone USA pool decking tilePool & Spa Outdoor has come out with its 2013 Buyers' Guide online. We are your best resource for buying tips, company information, website listings, and photo ideas for everything in your backyard.

Our annual Buyers' Guide includes over 30 categories of outdoor products and provides a list of builders and manufacturers of swimming pools, custom spas, pool covers, cleaners, decking companies, and more!

With a new design for easy navigation, you can find everything from inground pool builders and pool maintenance products to hot tubs, waterslides, and stone decking. Check out the photo galleries, videos, testimonials, and pricing from our featured company profiles.

 

To get photo ideas and product info for all the latest backyard products, visit Pool & Spa Outdoor's 2013 Buyers' Guide

 

Photo courtesy of CoralStoneUSA.com


2013 APSP Award-Winning Swimming Pools Photo Gallery

Get Inspired with Award-Winning Pool Photos from APSP









APSP Naturescapes award winning swimming pool deck backyardIf chilly weather has you wishing for summer, now is the time to start collecting ideas for your own backyard swimming pool. Will this year be the year you become a proud pool owner? Or maybe you plan to renovate your existing pool… or makeover your entire backyard into an at-home resort.

If you are looking for beautiful swimming pool photos and ideas to design your own backyard resort and outdoor living space, check out the winners of The International Awards of Excellence presented by the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP). Every year, APSP honors talented pool builders and pool designers for their amazing projects and water features.

 

Click through the entire gallery of award-winning swimming pool photos, waterfalls, water features, spas, stone decks, and more. Choose your favorites to inspire your own backyard pool design or outdoor living space. See pool photos >>

 

"Photo courtesy of APSP; Naturescapes, Overland Park, Kansas (Natural Setting, Silver)


10 Chocolate Dessert Recipes for Valentine’s Day

Delicious Desserts for Valentine's Day







Treat your sweetheart (and yourself) to one of the delicious Valentine’s Day dessert recipes below. From cupcakes to cookies to brownies, each of these desserts features the classic combination of rich, bittersweet chocolate and sweet, juicy cherries—a perfect match for your taste buds!


Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes

Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes
Servings: 1 dozen

Ingredients
8 ounces butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup milk
1 1/3 cups pitted cherries, halved

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cream together the butter and sugar using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer 4 to 5 minutes, until fluffy and light. Slowly beat in the eggs.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa. Add this to the egg mixture along with the milk and mix just long enough to blend the ingredients, no more than 20 seconds.

Fold in the halved cherries, no more than another 10 seconds. Let rest 10 minutes, then fill greased muffin cups to the brim with the batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and let cool 10 minutes before unmolding.




Recipe and photo courtesy of California Cherry Board



Croissant French Toast with Fresh Bing Cherry Sauce

Croissant French Toast with Cherry Sauce
Servings: 4

Ingredients
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 cups pitted fresh cherries
Four croissants, ok if day-old
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon canola oil
2 cups fresh whipped cream
1/2 cup chocolate sauce

Directions

Heat orange marmalade in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cherries and cook for five minutes stirring frequently. Remove from flame.

Slice croissants in half lengthwise, as if to make a sandwich. Whisk eggs, milk, cream in flat-bottomed baking dish. Lay croissant pieces in egg mixture, flipping several times as liquid is absorbed.

Add canola oil to griddle and heat on medium flame. Cook croissant slices until golden brown on each side.

Place bottom croissant slices on serving plates. Top with ½ cup cherry mixture. Top with croissant tops, add a dollop of whipped cream and finish with a pour of chocolate sauce.

Recipe and photo courtesy of California Cherry Board



Chocolate-Dipped Cherry Treats



Chocolate Dipped Cherry TreatsIngredients
1 to 2 pounds fresh California Bing cherries
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. Heat chocolate over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon until melted, about five minutes. (Note: Use a double boiler. Or fill a saucepan half full with water and place chocolate in a small, deep heatproof bowl that fits snugly on the saucepan, but does not touch the water. )

3. Wash cherries with stems on and let dry. Optional pitting instructions: Using a cherry pitting device, carefully remove the pit going through the cherry cross-ways rather than from top to bottom. This will allow the stem to remain intact. The hole in the middle of the cherry will be covered with chocolate when dipped.

4. Carefully pick cherries up by the stem and dip just over half-way into the melted chocolate. Let excess chocolate drip back into the pan or bowl.

5. Place on aluminum-lined cookie sheet and set in the refrigerator until the chocolate has set, about 15 minutes.

6. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Recipe and photo courtesy of California Cherry Board




Cherry-Misu


Cherry-Misu RecipeServings: 9

Ingredients
2 jars (10 oz. each) maraschino cherries
2 cartons (8 oz. each) Mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. Amaretto or brandy
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup water
42 crisp ladyfinger cookies
2 milk chocolate candy bars (1.55 oz. each), grated Chocolate curls

Directions

Drain cherries, reserving juice and 9 cherries; set aside. Chop remaining cherries.

In a large bowl, combine the cheese, sugar, Amaretto, vanilla and 1 Tbsp. cherry juice. In another bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form; gently fold into cheese mixture.

Combine water and remaining cherry juice. Arrange 14 ladyfingers in an ungreased 9-in. square pan. Brush with 3/4 cup cherry juice mixture. Spread 1-1/3 cups cheese mixture over ladyfingers. Sprinkle with half of the chopped cherries and grated chocolate. Repeat layers.

Top with remaining ladyfingers and cheese mixture. Garnish with chocolate curls and reserved cherries. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Editor’s Note: This recipe was prepared with Alessi brand crisp ladyfinger cookies.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation



Chocolate Cherry Bombs


Chocolate Cherry Bombs
Servings: Makes 16 (1 1/2-inch) cherry bombs

Ingredients
1 (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries with stems
2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
1 (7.25-ounce) bottle chocolate shell topping

Directions

Drain cherries. Remove stems and save them to complete the recipe.

Place cherries and 1 cup ice cream in electric blender. Pulse to combine. Combine cherry mixture with remaining 1 cup ice cream in a medium bowl; mix with a spoon. Divide between 2 small (8-ounce) bowls. Cover and freeze overnight or until firm.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Shake chocolate shell topping 30 seconds; divide between 2 custard cups or small bowls. Remove 1 container of ice cream from freezer. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop 1 (1-inch) ball; place on fork. Spoon chocolate shell topping over ball while holding over custard cup. Place on baking sheet; quickly insert 1 reserved cherry stem in top. (To remove ball from fork, push off gently at base with knife).

Repeat with remaining ice cream. Work quickly so ice cream does not get too soft. Place cherry bombs in freezer. Repeat procedure with remaining bowl of ice cream. Freeze until ready to serve.

Tip: If blender is unavailable, finely chop cherries and stir into ice cream.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation



Chocolate Covered Cherry Brownie Jumble

Chocolate Covered Cherry Brownie Jumble
Servings: Makes 16 brownies

Ingredients
1 box (21 oz) fudge brownie mix
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
16 chocolate cookie wafers, broken into large halves
1 (10-12 oz) jar maraschino cherries, drained and halved
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnutes (optional)
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix brownie mix, eggs, water and oil in a large bowl until well blended. Spread batter in a 13"x19" greased pan.

Scatter top of batter with cookies, cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts. Drizzle with condensed milk.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until topping is golden. Let cool and then cut 4x4 into 16 pieces.

Cook's Note: If using a glass baking pan, increase cooking time to 40 minutes.

Recipe and photo by Kathy Casey Food Studios® for the National Cherry Foundation



Black Forest Cupcakes-Gluten Free

Black Forest Cupcakes-Gluten Free
Servings: Makes 24 gluten-free cupcakes

Ingredients
CUPCAKES:
½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups gluten-free flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1½ cups milk
1 (14.5) ounce can red tart cherries, drained
1 (10 ounce) jar maraschino cherries, drained and liquid reserved, use divided.

TOPPING:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grated dark chocolate for garnish

Directions

CUPCAKES: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Insert paper liners into the cups of 2 standard muffin pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Turn mixer to low and add the eggs, one at a time until each egg is fully mixed in, scrapping down the sides of the bowl with each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix well. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and milk to the creamed butter, starting with 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half the milk, half the remaining flour mixture, the rest of the milk and the rest of the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer and scrap the sides and bottom of the bowl well with a large spatula.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of batter into each prepared muffin cup, add 3 of the red tart cherries to each cup then top with 2 more tablespoons of batter. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until springy on the top. Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes.

With a toothpick, poke 6 or 8 holes in each cupcake. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of reserved maraschino cherry liquid onto each cupcake and let it soak in. Remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

TOPPING: Whip cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of reserved maraschino cherry juice. Beat until stiff.

Frost cupcakes and garnish with a maraschino cherry and some grated chocolate.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation. Recipe developed by Carol Kicinski



Maraschino Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies


Maraschino Chocolate Thumbprint CookiesIngredients
2 jars (10 ounces each) maraschino cherries without stems
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons 2% milk
Baker's Joy No-Stick Baking Spray

Directions

Drain maraschino cherries, reserving 1 teaspoon juice. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl; mix well.

Put butter and sugar in medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed 3 to 4 minutes, or until well blended. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Add flour mixture; mix well.

Put chocolate chips and milk in a small saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until chocolate melts. Stir in reserved maraschino cherry juice. Let cool slightly.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on baking pan prepared with Baker's Joy. Push in centers with thumb; spoon 1 teaspoon chocolate mixture into each thumbprint and top with a cherry.

Bake in 350 degree oven 10 to 12 minutes, or until cookies are firm. Remove to wire racks. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation



Chocolate Cherry Cookies


Chocolate Cherry CookiesServings: Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients
COOKIES:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate melted and cooled
1/3 cup buttermilk, milk or water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour or whole wheat flour*
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 cups cut up maraschino cherries (4 10 oz. jars stem-less)

CHOCOLATE FROSTING:
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
3 tablespoons water
1+ cup powdered sugar
Note: If using self-rising flour, omit baking soda and salt.

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

COOKIES: Mix sugar, margarine/butter, egg, chocolate, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and cherries.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched; cool.

Frost with Chocolate Frosting or Dust with Powdered Sugar.

CHOCOLATE FROSTING: Heat chocolate and margarine over low heat until melted; remove from heat. Stir in water. Gradually add powdered sugar until smooth.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation



Easy Chocolate Covered Cherries


Easy Chocolate Covered CherriesServings: Makes about 5 dozen

Ingredients
2 jars (10 ounces each) maraschino cherries with stems
1 package (12 ounce) semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Drain cherries; discard juice. Put cherries on paper towels to drain completely.

Put chocolate chips in a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted. Do not let chocolate get too hot. Remove from heat.

Dip cherries into chocolate; swirl to coat completely. Place on baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate until set.


Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation

Choosing the Best Covers for Your Outdoor Furniture

Tips for selecting patio furniture covers










Guest post by Lucy Markham

Coverture Patio Furniture CoversOutdoor waterproof patio covers are essential to extend the life of your outdoor furniture. Though you may feel comfortable leaving your patio furniture unprotected during the warmer months, the truth is that each season of the year poses a unique threat to your outdoor furniture. From the morning dew and insect pollination of spring, unpredictable showers and intense scorch of the sun during the summer, and the weight of falling leaves and snow during the colder seasons, your outdoor furniture should be covered when not in use.

When choosing a cover for your outdoor patio furniture, it’s important to understand the vital elements that make the cover strong enough to withstand the harsh weather in the coming months.

Here’s what to look for when choosing covers for your outdoor furniture:

Material

When looking for outdoor furniture covers, be sure to choose a strong and durable fabric that will withstand the elements of every season. A canvas material may be thick and lasting; however, if you live in an area that experiences heavy rain, a canvas cover may be susceptible to leakage and can cause detrimental water damage to your furniture. Another material used for furniture covers is a waterproof polyester blend. Although you may feel that you are saving money by investing in a less expensive fabric, cheap polyester becomes brittle in extreme temperatures and cracks, exposing your furniture to the elements.



Photo courtesy of Couverture


For ultimate waterproof protection during each season, look for outdoor furniture covers made from multilayered and nonwoven fabrics. This material is extremely breathable while also being waterproof and providing optimal UV protection. Additionally, look for a material that is easy to clean and store, as you want to make sure that your investment will protect your patio furniture for several seasons to come.




Size

Just as it’s important to select the right material for the covers, it is equally important to be certain you have invested in the correct cover size. A majority of retail stores have samples available to give you a range of what is offered, and many manufacturers offer consulting in custom sizing. California-based Couverture, for example, keeps a library of patterns for hundreds of pieces of designer brand outdoor furniture and can also create a new pattern made from your measurements.

Before making any purchases, be sure to measure your furniture, especially the configuration of a table and chairs set where the size might vary considerably from what you’d expect. A cover that is too small will not provide adequate protection while a cover that is too big will have extra material that can sag or get picked up by the wind, allowing rain and debris to find its way in.



Patio Furniture with Duck CoverSpecial Features

To prevent the covers from blowing off of the furniture in high winds, look for covers that have attached straps that tie to the bottom of the furniture, so no matter how intense the storm is, your furniture will be protected.

Another new and innovative feature is from Duck Covers, who offers an inflatable dome to be placed under a patio table, chair, or couch to insure that debris and standing water don’t collect in the crevices of the furniture once covered. The domes allow water to easily slide off of the covers while also permitting air to circulate beneath them. This insures than mold and mildew will not accumulate underneath the covers during humid and rainy seasons.


Investing in quality outdoor furniture covers made from durable and waterproof materials will provide sustaining protection during each season and keep your outdoor furniture looking just as luxurious as when you first purchased it.



Lucy Markham is a graduate of the University of Florida in English and creative writing. As a recent homeowner, she considers herself a bit of an expert on home improvement and décor as she devoted countless hours to improving her new home.




Right: Photos courtesy of Duck Covers



10 Outdoor Firepit Designs to Match Any Backyard

Discover the Best Firepit Design for Your Backyard Landscape







Outdoor firepits add both sizzle and style to backyard living spaces and come in an array of shapes and materials to match any setting. Take a look at the 10 designs below to find the best firepit for your backyard setting and decor.


Copper Firepit Design
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com


Copper gives this outdoor firepit unique character. Left untreated, the copper develops a patina which imparts an antique, Old World feel that is ideal for backyards with a rustic or Mediterranean theme. The metal’s shiny finish can also be easily maintained using a quality copper cleaner and polisher for a refined, contemporary look.



Square Firepit with Mission Style Base
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com

This wood-burning firepit’s square shape and Mission-Style design is a lovely complement to Modern and Transitional style homes and landscapes. This firepit can also lend a contemporary feel to southwestern and desert settings. The ceramic tiles surrounding the steel fire bowl have a dark, wood-like finish and provide an elegant accent.



Firepit Table Design with Slate Tile Mosaic
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com

Enjoy cozy conversation with friends and family around this attractive gas firepit table, which features an 11-inch surface area for resting drinks or snacks. The mosaic brown, green, blue, red, and yellow slate tiles adorning the firepit’s mantel provide an earthy feel and complement outdoor furniture with a Tuscan or Mediterranean theme.



Faux Stone Firepit Table
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com

Layers of faux stone surround the base of this full-size firepit table, making it a natural fit for any outdoor setting. The gorgeous black granite tabletop and clear fire glass add a touch of refinement to suit more contemporary patios.



Firepit Table Design Wicker Pattern
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com

Providing warmth, style, and function, this propane firepit table is the perfect gathering spot for backyard entertaining. The base of the firepit features an elegant wicker-like weave pattern, which merges well with the causal feel of tropical design themes. What’s more, its conventional shape and sophisticated color make it a great fit for traditional and contemporary style backyards.



Dining Firepit Table
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com

Combining sophistication and comfort, this exquisite dining firepit table will become the centerpiece of any backyard patio. The circular marble tabletop offers versatile style appeal and can be outfitted with three different fire kits for a more customized look. Choose ceramic lava rocks (shown) for a look that’s both rustic and elegant, ceramic logs for a more traditional campfire feel, or clear glass or lava granules for a unique contemporary design.



Steel Firepit Design with Mosaic Slate Tabletop
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com

A coffee table shape allows for more family and friends to gather around this lavish steel firepit, which houses two propane tanks inside its base for extra convenience. The gorgeous mosaic slate tabletop boasts a palette of neutral tones to fit any backyard setting and décor, including Tuscan, traditional, and contemporary designs.



Firepit Table-Basket Weave Design
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com

This firepit table is a combination of classic elegance and lived-in comfort, making it the perfect addition to traditional backyards and décor. The base of the firepit is made from solid cast resin and features curved sides and a slate-like tabletop. The basket weave pattern on the sides of the base gives the impression of wicker and adds subtle texture to the design. Arctic flame glass enhances the fire’s allure and entices guests to stay a little while longer.



Round Stone Resin Firepit
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com

This stylish round firepit design is a sharp match for any backyard décor—from traditional to modern to tropical. It features a stone resin base in a wicker pattern and a granite tabletop. This firepit also serves double-duty as an elegant side table: just place the granite tabletop cover over the stainless steel burner.



Concrete Firepit Table Design
Photo courtesy of R.H. Peterson Co.

Made from concrete reinforced with glass fiber, this ornate fire table is a great conversation piece. The intricate carving pattern and stately arches on the sides of the table provide a formal look to suit traditional and Italian landscape designs.   







Top Outdoor Accessories for Fall - Fabrics, Fire Features, Lighting & Decor



Outdoor Accessories and Decorations for Fall







With its brisk air and vibrant foliage, fall is a beautiful time of year to enjoy the outdoors. By adding a few outdoor accessories and decorations, you can experience the vivid scenery and crisp weather from the comfort of your backyard patio or deck all season long.

From outdoor fabrics in rich colors to fire features that keep you warm in the cool autumn temperatures, here are some outdoor accessories and decorations that will enhance your outdoor space for fall.

Outdoor Fabrics for Fall


Summer Classics Outdoor Furniture

Photo courtesy of Summer Classics
Outdoor fabrics are used for a variety of outdoor furnishings and accessories, including patio cushions, pillows, canopies, and outdoor rugs. Available in a wide range of fabric colors, textures, and patterns, these outdoor accessories offer a quick and simple way to update the look of your patio furniture for fall.

For instance, patio cushions in brightly colored fabrics and summery designs can be swapped with outdoor cushions and pillows in warm harvest tones like pumpkin, cinnamon, sage, plum, and cranberry.

Patio with Outdoor Rug and Fall Theme
Photo courtesy of Whitecraft, Inc.; photography by CKM Photographics Inc; designed by William Herren

An outdoor rug lends seasonal impact when adorned with nature-inspired colors or designs, such as leaves, flowers, or pinecones. Additionally, a rug can establish a cozier atmosphere outdoors by defining a smaller area of the patio.

To refresh the look of your outdoor dining table for the season, make a table runner or placemats from fall-colored outdoor fabrics. Adding this small touch will help tie your patio’s fall theme together.



Patio with Outdoor Fireplace

Outdoor Fire Features for Fall


To properly update your patio or deck for fall you have to prepare for the change in weather. Outdoor heaters such as firepits, fireplaces, and patio heaters will keep you warm in the chilly autumn temperatures, as well as add a charming focal point to your backyard sitting area.

Portable outdoor fire features, including firepits, fire bowls, firepit tables, chimineas, and fireplaces, are easy to set up and come in an array of materials and styles to match your outdoor setting and décor.

While all of these fire features will lend a warm glow to your patio, some options are better suited for different climates. If you live in a mild climate region, an outdoor firepit, firepit table, or chiminea will provide sufficient heat since temperatures never drop too low. To ward off the nippy fall breezes in colder climates, an outdoor fireplace or patio heater will supply better heat coverage (patio heaters can typically heat about a 6- to 20-foot radius).



Photo courtesy of
Brandenburg Pool



Outdoor Decorations for Fall


An easy way to decorate your yard for fall is with the array of harvest items. Pumpkins, gourds, hay bales, and dried cornstalks embody the natural textures and colors of the season and can be placed around your patio or deck in a number of ways. For example, dried corn stalks can be tied to deck rails with twine; pumpkins and gourds of varying sizes, colors, and shapes can be arranged in a corner of the patio or scattered along the top of deck rails; bales of hay can be positioned throughout your outdoor space to serve as a rustic touch as well as additional seating or tables during outdoor gatherings.

Outdoor Decorations for Fall_Pumpkins & Gourds
Photo courtesy of EASYdesigns (www.easydesigns.biz); photography by Elisabeth Secocky

Additionally, an assortment of fall blooms such as chrysanthemums, pansies, carnations, violas, and alstroemerias can be planted in containers or hanging baskets and dotted around your patio or deck. 



Outdoor Patio Lighting for Fall

As the days get shorter, outdoor lighting will keep your patio well lit so you can stay outside on a crisp fall day well into the evening. Some deck and patio lighting ideas include outdoor tabletop lanterns, chandeliers, and string patio lights. These outdoor lighting fixtures serve both function and style by illuminating sitting areas and adding autumnal charm to the patio landscape.

Outdoor Patio Lighting for Fall
Photo courtesy of Environmental Landscape Associates

Outdoor lamps that look like their indoor counterparts are another lighting option and can make your patio feel just as warm and inviting as your interior rooms.

For added safety, install outdoor lighting on steps, walkways, and along the edges of your patio or deck so you and your guests can carefully navigate the area when darkness settles in.





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